Archive for Advanced manufacturing

Grace Engineered Products/Letter2Word – Business Expansion

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , on September 3, 2014 by Tory Brecht


5001 Tremont Ave. and 1515 E. Kimberly Road
Total Investment: $2.7 million
Total Public Investment:$30,000 IEDC High Quality Jobs Program
Jobs Created: 11-15 (Grace) 3-5 (Letter2Word)
Status: Expansion in progress



Philip Allen is a serial entrepreneur who grew Grace Engineered Products Inc. from a virtual one-man operation into a global manufacturer of electrical safety devices employing 25 here in Davenport. Now, he plans to not only expand that business and add up to 15 new employees, but is helping nurture a start-up called Letter2Word.

Grace is a worldwide leader in electrical safety products, especially the GracePort panel interface connectors, which allow users to either service an electrical cabinet without opening its panels or at least determine whether it is safe to open from the outside. Allen pioneered the application of Safeside voltage indicators into lock-out, tag-out procedures, which help improve worker safety while working on electrical equipment. Customers of this Davenport-based company include such giants as Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark.

The company started in 1993, when Allen and some associates were working on a friction welder retrofit project at John Deere. Work was needed on a relatively dangerous machine with an interface in the front and an electrical panel with a 250 horsepower drive and a 400 amp main feed  inconveniently located at the rear. The only way to access the machine for maintenance was to open the doors, but the maintenance supervisor understood this caused a potential hazard.

“The supervisor insisted they keep the door closed,” said Allen. “The end result was the panel interface connector, which would become an industry standard.”

Now, the company sells all over the world.

“We just got an order for 40 units from Italy and another large order for Australia.” About 20 percent of the company’s product is exported, about half of it to Canada. This growth, both internationally and domestically, drove the decision to expand. Allen has purchased a building at 1515 E. Kimberly Road, which will house a mix of expanded Grace operations as well as the new and growing Letter2Word operations. The Iowa Economic Development Association board awarded the company $30,000 in direct financial assistance and tax benefits through its High Quality Jobs Program, due to the increase in employment that will result from the expansion.


Advanced manufacturing laser cutting machines allow Grace to make thousands of different customized products

Advanced manufacturing laser cutting machines allow Grace to make thousands of different customized products

Grace Engineered Product’s unique process – Allen holds several U.S. and international patents for thru-panel electrical safety devices – allow it to mass produce customized products.

“We can get a specific order in one day, even with a specialized logo, and have it out the door the following day in most cases,” Allen said.

The 15 or so new employees he hopes to add later this fall will come into a workplace that values employee engagement. It’s a pet-friendly office, and several dogs can be seen wandering around at any given time. There is a large, warmly decorated break room and the factory floor and inventory bay are bright, clean and neat. To qualify for the IEDC incentives, starting wages start at $17.47 an hour and include full health benefits.

Allen said he chose to expand in Davenport both because of convenience and because of its outstanding workforce.

“We have good, hardworking people who show up on time, do their jobs and don’t quit,” he said. “The city was also very responsive and helped us work with the state.”

Another reason space was getting tight was due to the growth of Letter2Word, a startup home and business design and decor company co-founded by Allen’s wife Jane, her friend Sally Dailey and Dailey’s daughter Shannon Evans. The company creates  hand-painted words and phrases that can be hung indoors or outdoors to share unique messages. The letters are created on the same precision cutting machines that Grace uses for its products, making the businesses perfect for co-existing.


Sally said the company has already secured several large accounts, and will need to add 3 to 5 new employees at the new location on Kimberly Avenue to meet the demand for product delivered this spring.

“We have just had such a great working relationship with Phil and his staff,” she said. “He calls it cross-pollination of  business and it really seems to work.”

Allen said he is an entrepreneur at heart who loves innovation, so stand by for more business ventures in Davenport going forward.


Maxx Industries – New Business

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , , on July 9, 2013 by Tory Brecht


9105 N. Zenith Avenue

Total Investment: $950,000
CDBG Job Creation Grant: $320,000
Private Funds Leveraged: $630,000
Status: Just complete
Jobs Created: 7 immediately – potentially 30-40 within 3 years

A welder works on one of Maxx Industries' high-sided shale bins.

The Quad-Cities is known as a haven for specialized and advanced manufacturing and a new business in north Davenport is carrying on that tradition. Maxx Industries LLC, a new venture led by entrepreneur Thor McDonald, is a diversified manufacturer of equipment for the North American oil and natural gas industries and equipment for the agricultural sector.

McDonald – whose background is in the metals and manufacturing industry – acquired a vacant 38,000-square-foot industrial building on North Zenith (behind Farm and Fleet, near the Northwest Boulevard exit on Interstate 80) from Alcoa. The spacious manufacturing floor area serviced by massive overhead cranes is ideal for Maxx Industries’ large-scale manufacturing needs.

Work began in late June on the company’s first two oil and gas inventory products – high-sided shale bins destined for the Canadian oil and gas fields. McDonald has hired six welders/fabricators and will be adding a production manager and more manufacturing employees in the near term. Longer term, McDonald said by the end of three years, he’d like to have a workforce of 30 to 40, including engineers, draftsmen, sales and other support staff.

“Advantages of a Davenport location are the central location in the country, the access to skilled personnel in the area, the proximity and ease to access Interstate 80, and the nearby truck stops for marshaling trucks to be loaded,” McDonald said. “Also, the building, a former R&D facility for Alcoa, offers immediate benefits to support our operations and offers opportunity for growing the business. We were able to pick up 10 adjoining acres for future expansion.”

The spacious building and built-in crane system were attractive to McDonald.

McDonald’s employees are currently working on oil and gas products, but will soon be manufacturing more complex agricultural equipment such as large grain augers. These particular augers are used on the large farm operations in Canada, but McDonald believes there is market potential on large American-based farm operations throughout the Midwest as well. The largest auger is 105-feet long and more than 13 feet tall. The demand in Canada for this product has kept manufacturing in that country engaged year-round with no opportunity to export to the US and meet American interest in the product line.

Maxx Industries is the type of high-quality job creator and advanced manufacturing facility well-suited to Davenport’s Interstate 80 corridor area. Expect to see more development in this excellently located part of Davenport in the coming months and years.

PCT Engineered Systems – Business Expansion

Posted in Projects with tags , , on March 4, 2013 by Tory Brecht


Total Investment: $750,000
CDBG Zero-Interest Loan: $100,000
Private Funds Leveraged: $650,000
8700 Hillandale Road
Status: Ongoing
Projected jobs created: 4

PCT Engineered Systems on Hillandale Road in north Davenport.

International demand for this hometown Davenport company’s electron beam system technology means an expansion is in the works, despite the fact the current facility is less than six-years old.

PCT’s electron beam systems are used for curing paints and coatings on a variety of materials, and the company serves customers all over the globe – ranging from China, Poland, India and the Netherlands to here in the Quad-Cities. To keep pace with demand, new machines as well as new employees will be added in this $750,000 expansion.

It is one of several expansions or new businesses underway in northwest Davenport, which is quickly gaining a reputation as an ideal location for advanced manufacturing.